For this bachelor homeowner, the process of designing his home was an exercise in self-exploration that allowed him to discover facets of his taste, interest and lifestyle.

Who Lives Here A bachelor and his mother
Home A five-room HDB flat at Haig Road
Size 1,300 sq ft
Interior Designer Artistroom

A homeowner’s brief is often like a wish list of things that he or she would like to convey to the interior designer when coming up with a design proposal for a new home.

However, in the case of this 46-year-old civil servant, it was the reverse. “It was difficult for me to articulate what I wanted. Instead, I found it easier to tell the designer what I did not want,” he says.

No fixed furniture, please

Among the things he did not want for his five-room flat was too many fixed furniture pieces, because he would like to reconfigure the space when he wanted to and add furniture pieces along the way. Ornate or frilly items are also a no-no; neither are elements that would collect dust or are a hassle to clean.

While he likes open spaces, he did not want the entire apartment to be visible to visitors or outsiders.

This image of the corridor leading to the bedrooms and study best encapsulates the Zen-like quality of the interior.

Bought HDB Corridor Recess Area

The Artistroom team took all these into consideration, starting with the entrance foyer. It was formerly just an access corridor the previous owner had purchased from HDB, sandwiched between a gate and a door.

By pushing the new main entrance all the way out and adding a built-in shoe rack and bench, the space is now a proper entrance foyer that welcomes visitors to the home.

House Tour: 5-room Haig Road HDB looks like a modern zen Japanese Ryokan guest inn
A built-in shoe rack and bench serve very practical purposes within the entrance foyer. Shoes can also be placed underneath the floating bench.
House Tour: 5-room Haig Road HDB looks like a modern zen Japanese Ryokan guest inn
What was previously a dark and dingy access corridor is now a light-filled and welcoming entrance foyer.

Entryway Leads Into Kitchen

Behind the bench is the kitchen, separated from the foyer by a half-height parapet wall with sliding glass panels that partially screen off the rest of the interior from prying eyes.

House Tour: 5-room Haig Road HDB looks like a modern zen Japanese Ryokan guest inn
The neat and efficient galley kitchen.
House Tour: 5-room Haig Road HDB looks like a modern zen Japanese Ryokan guest inn
The incorporation of appropriate shelving systems maximise the use of odd, hard- to-reach corners in the kitchen cabinets.

30 Years Old HDB Flat in Original Condition

Gutting the flat was a completely justified move considering that it is about three decades old and in its original condition. Most of the existing walls were hacked to create an open plan that can accommodate gatherings and more storage.

“I like to have friends over, so an interior that is spacious yet cosy is important,” the homeowner emphasises.

An internal window has been artfully placed to bridge the dichotomy between connectedness and privacy.

Kitchen Walls & Bedroom Hacked

The kitchen walls were demolished, and its footprint extended into the living area, demarcated by full-height glass walls for a more seamless transition between the two spaces.

The walls of the bedroom adjacent to the living room were also demolished to make way for a dining area and tea corner by the window. Together with the living room, the three spaces read as a series of interconnected areas that allow activities in each zone to spill over to the next.

The dining area enjoys plenty of natural light from the windows and balcony.

Japanese Minimalist Zen with Eclecticism

The most striking thing about the living area is the eclecticism of the furniture, which reflects the homeowner’s aesthetic inclinations: “I did not want the interior to end up faddish. I also wanted to have some fun with the furniture, and the design of the flat accommodates that. The neutral tones allow for splashes of colour if needed.”

House Tour: 5-room Haig Road HDB looks like a modern zen Japanese Ryokan guest inn
The homeowner is intrigued by how the eclectic furniture collection come together coherently, yet each piece retains its own uniqueness.

Tatami Platform with Hidden Storage

Elevated on a tatami platform with hidden storage and a tea table underneath, the tea corner is a restorative nook that allows the homeowner to enjoy a cup of tea and just stare out the window, something that he has been enjoying since moving in in May 2022.

LED strip lighting and track lighting in the ceiling delineate the living and dining areas and the corridor from above.

The homeowner’s mother occupies the master bedroom with an attached bathroom while he takes the remaining bedroom.

Cabinets To Partition Space

The wall between his bedroom and the dining and tea areas was hacked, and in its place, the designer created a row of built-in, back-to-back cabinets. The side facing the dining area houses concealed storage, while the wardrobes at the back are within the bedroom.

In the words of the homeowner, “The living room allows different strands of conversation to converge.”
A simply furnished bedroom possesses an innate tranquility.

With some reconfiguration, what used to be a corridor space between the two bedrooms is now a private study area within the homeowner’s bedroom for working from home. It is separated from the sleeping area by a slide-and-fold screen door.

A little peekaboo window facing the corridor allows him to stay connected with the goings on in the rest of the apartment without sacrificing privacy.

Traditional Rattan Sliding Doors Conceal Storage

More hidden storage can be found along the wall outside the common bathroom. The concealed storage, bedroom and bathroom doors, are clad with wallpaper with rattan-like texture. It adds layered tactility to the surfaces minus the dust and warping.

A parapet wall next to the water closet screens it from view even when the bathroom door is opened.

The interior exudes a Zen-like quality of a Japanese abode, right from the entrance foyer to the living, dining, and tea areas. The dark-coloured palette comprising dark stone-look tiles and walnut and oak veneers add a sense of warmth to the apartment.

Even the choice of light fixtures embodies an ethos of simplicity and tranquility.

House Tour: 5-room Haig Road HDB looks like a modern zen Japanese Ryokan guest inn

Renovation Cost: $150,000

The design and build project cost about $150,000 and took around six months. This was partly because the homeowner did not want to rush things and also due to manpower constraints and other restrictions during the pandemic.

For the client, this is a “welcoming and comfortable” home and “a place for friends to gather”. It is a home that allows him to slow down and take his time to savour, reflect and explore.

Text: Lynn Tan/Home & Decor